Politics

ZEC’s defensiveness in the face of legitimate criticism only entrenches deeper distrust

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

 

There are numerous psychological reasons that impact one’s perception of another, and whether they can be trusted.

According to David DeSteno, PhD – a social psychologist at Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and author of the book, “The Trust About Trust” – most people equate trust with integrity, although that is a critical part of trustworthiness, there is another component…competency.

In other words, you can trust a friend implicitly with money or secrets, but if you needed someone to do brain surgery, would you still trust this person…unless if he is also a neurosurgeon?

At its essence, trust is about opening yourself to another – which could be described as opening one’s heart to vulnerability.

Therefore, when the people of Zimbabwe find it extremely difficult to trust ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) – this should never be simply dismissed as some wild rantings by “political players trying to discredit the electoral body to account for their own electoral losses”, as disgracefully declared by an official, in a long rambling statement issued yesterday, February 18, 2022.

In fact, the first half of the uninspiring statement was disturbingly devoted to a long diatribe in the act of defensiveness – as the commission never sought to directly and swiftly address numerous accusations leveled against it by several observers and stakeholders in the country, and even beyond.

Such an ill-concieved decision to opt for the route of defensiveness, rather than sincerely acknowledging these concerns, and respectfully responding to them – did nothing for the discredited image of the electoral body.

That is why I never bothered to proceed reading the statement after the halfway point – since, resorting to defensiveness under any circumstances, usually reveal an attempt at distracting the audience from the real feelings of guilt, shame, and fault, in order to hide the truth, with the ultimate objective of shifting attention to the faults of the accuser.

This is what is commonly known as an ad hominem attack – which is a fallacious objection to an argument or factual claim by appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim; an attempt to argue against an opponent’s idea by discrediting the opponent themself.

Therefore, for ZEC to waste our time and energy by expecting us to read that tiresome statement – which sounded more as a ruling ZANU PF political grandstanding attempt, than a genuine endeavor by a Chapter 12 constitutional independent commission, entrusted with preparing, conducting, and supervising elections in the country – left readers with more questions than answers.

Let us remember that distrust of ZEC was not derived from the air – but, emanated from sincere concerns by the people of Zimbabwe.

Even when the ruling ZANU PF party’s presidential candidate Robert Gabriel Mugabe lost elections in 2008 to the opposition MDC’s Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, he also claimed rigging and electoral fraud – leading to several arrests, mostly of polling officers in Manicaland province.

As such, it would be quite disingenuous for the electoral body to merely dismiss these doubts and questions over its credibility as from opposition parties that are afraid of losing elections.

Zimbabweans have every reason to distrust ZEC – what with valid and legitimate reports of the main opposition having being omitted from attending crucial meetings a few months ago, with reports of senior ZEC officials being quoted as seeking approval from “above”.

Would it then not had made more sense if the electoral body had commenced its long statement by addressing the outcry over 170,000 registered voters curiously being moved from one constituency or ward to another, yet without ever changing their addresses, nor a delimitation exercise having been carried out?

Would it not have been more prudent for ZEC to have explained how hundreds of individuals were registered as residing at the same address in the city of Kwekwe?

If these, and a trainload of other similar accusations against the commission, were not worth the paper on which they were printed on – then, why waste valuable time throwing angry tantrums?

Why did ZEC not simply get to the point, and provide evidence against all such claims – instead of going on and on about “political players trying to discredit the electoral body to account for their own electoral losses”?

Methinks this was a classic case of an ad hominem attack – which only makes the people of Zimbabwe more suspicious and distrustful of their own electoral commission.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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